Today is Yom Hashaoh, the day that we remember the Holocaust. We remember those who died in the Shoah; we remember those who survived the Shoah; we remember those who fought against the Nazi Regime; we remember those righteous gentiles who helped to save so many Jews.
In our community, we hear so many stories of connections to the Holocaust from those who are first, second and third generations of the survivors. As survivors, as children and grandchildren of survivors, and as those who simply strive to remember the hatred, the pain, the destruction so that it never happens again, we remember in so many different ways.
As I tried to look at Yom Hashoah through a different lens this year, it struck me that the category of character strengths called transcendence might be a helpful way by which to support those who are remembering the Holocaust. According to the VIA Character Institute, transcendence is ‘strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning’. For Jews, God is both the transcendent creator of the universe, and at the same time an active and personal presence in the world linked by a never-ending covenant with the Jewish people.
For many, faith in God was questioned as a result of the Holocaust. For others, faith in God was the only answer to survival of Jews, and to the survival of the Jewish people after the Holocaust. The character strengths that fall in the category of Transcendence, according to VIA, include Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor and Spirituality.
I would venture to say that many Jews and humans have a real gratitude for life, and the Holocaust often causes our gratitude to deepen. Now that we are 72 years after the end of the Holocaust, many Jews have a sense of hope that is stronger, hope that is necessary to look to tomorrow, in light of our difficult past. And the level of spirituality individuals choose to embrace varies as a result of the Holocaust, but there is no question that those who embrace their spirituality are able to embrace the love, support, community, learning and hope that exists in life, despite the fact that the Holocaust occurred. Perhaps it is precisely because of these strengths that we are able to look forward in planning for tomorrow.
May their memories be for a blessing, and may we live life in their honor and in their memory,
To read the initial blog about Counting the Omer and the Character Strengths, please read below.
If you are interested in learning about your own personal character strengths, please complete the survey below. We will be having follow-up programs through Makom to learn more about our Character Strengths.